FISHING – As a divisive debate on managing nonnative lake trout with native cutthroats and popular kokanee at Priest Lake continues, Idaho Fish and Game officials will hold a public meeting Thursday (Feb. 28) in Priest River.
Biologists will present their evaluation of the fisheries and the results of opinion surveys starting at 7 p.m. at the Priest River Senior Center, 339 W. Jackson Center.
Agency researchers already have contracted with commercial boats to survey lake trout populations using gillnets this spring.
Lake trout, also called mackinaw, have dominated the Priest Lake fishery since they overpopulated the lake in the 1980s, collapsing the kokanee and bull trout populations, IFG biologists say.
While the lake trout fishery has become popular with many anglers, other fishermen would prefer restoration of a kokanee, bull trout and cutthroat fishery, said Jim Fredericks, IFG regional fishery manager.
Bringing back kokanee and native fisheries would require gillnetting and angler incentives to significantly reduce the lake trout population, similar to what’s been done in recent years at Lake Pend Oreille.
Anglers are almost equally polarized in the debate, Fredericks said.
Lake trout are prolific, inexpensive to manage and provide a steady fishing opportunity, he said.
On the other hand, lake trout tend to dominate systems at the expense of other species, and they’re not as valuable to the recreation economy as kokanee, he said.